Hambantota: Virat Kohli smashed another century - his fourth in the last five innings - as India shrugged off their rust after a long layoff to begin the new season with a 21-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first one-day international at Hambantota on Saturday.
Kohli, who came to the wicket after India lost Gautam Gambhir with the score on seven, was in his element from the outset, cutting Nuwan Kulasekara for a boundary to get off the mark. He went on to hit nine boundaries in his 113-ball 106. Virender Sehwag, who struggled earlier in his innings, was in his attacking best once set. Kohli and Sehwag shared a 173-run stand for the second wicket to steer the visitors to an impressive 314 for 6 in 50 overs.
Irfan Pathan, who was included for the tour after injury to Vinay Kumar, gave India a rousing start by trapping Tillakaratne Dilshan in front for 6. But Kumar Sangakkara, along with Upul Tharanga, took Sri Lanka’s innings forward, sharing 77 for the second wicket.
Once Tharanga departed with score at 86, India tightened the noose and picked up the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal (13), skipper Mahela Jayawardene (12) and Angelo Mathews (7) in quick succession. Sangakkara, however, reached his 14th ODI century by pushing Ashwin to long-on for a single.
Thisara Perera was just the sort of a partner Sangakkara was looking for as the hard-hitting batsman took the attack to the Indians, smashing three fours and a six in his 28-ball 44. But the target proved too much to overhaul and despite Sangakkara's valiant 133, Sri Lanka finished on 293 for 9. For India, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Pathan scalped two wickets each, while Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha shared one wicket a piece.
Earlier, India started poorly after winning the toss when they lost Gambhir for 3. But Kohli and Sehwag steadied the innings and negated Sri Lanka's early advantage. Sehwag, who looked rusty at the beginning, was run out for 96 when he started off for a single at the non-striker's end after Kohli had played the ball.
Rohit Sharma came and went for another single-digit score, and Kohli followed not too long after for 106, caught by substitute fielder Sachithra Senanayake off a slow delivery from Perera. Having picked up three wickets for 48 runs and reducing India to 228 for 4 in the middle overs, Sri Lanka looked to make a comeback but Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni slammed 79 off just 54 to get the score past 300.
Raina's 50 came off only 45 balls with three boundaries and a six, while Dhoni hit three fours and a six in his 35-run knock. Perera picked up 3 for 70, while pace spearhead Lasith Malinga conceded 83 off his 10 overs. Nuwan could bowl only five overs after being injured attempting a catch.